Archive for July, 2016

Here is a new poem from my book Woven (coming 2017) to remember my father who died 21 years ago today.

Dad by Rock 1940sMy Dad on Smith Farm 1940sPicture 001

Perch

This precarious perch
our one go
the row of lights
blinding at times
but around them only dark
a hedgerow of rhododendrons
spiked intent
behind the facade
a child plays with spark plugs
the timing of my father’s engine
the grin godly
mischief how it all leaps ahead
the timing belt on his truck
could snap sends stars
scattering into the night
no one draws near
all wrongs not righted
but propped up somehow
every creature
complete with some sort of spine
or other mechanism
for explaining
that the perch is gained
but once and not for that long
the moving parts always different
if my father looks now to one side
as a bear or beaver
hurries in the underbrush
down the way a creek swells its banks
the birch and poplars around
greedy for all that water
roots pushed so deep
they hit rock and progress sideways

my father parks
on the other side of the creek
carries a 30/30 rifle on his shoulder
finds a rock to settle
disturbs the moss and sits
waits for a deer
there are few noises
now and then
the huff of wind
leaves flutter
or to his right a bird of some sort
calls once
a squirrel chatters
then bounds between trees
all this movement
how it all keeps
spinning out of control
if not brought here
then how
does it come to be?
all of it a lurch of some sort
explained only in some
unravelling prayer
it is autumn
my father the deer hunter
wears running shoes
red checkered hat
pushed back exposing forehead
glasses scratched
teeth mostly gone
he holds the rife a steady aim
he was once stars
and will be stars again
and is stars now
but that day he
is all of us
ashamed holding fast
telling the truth
in his head
he craves a cigarette
but stays focused
hears the deer
to his right
advancing toward the creek
for water
each animal
needing precisely what
the earth serves up
even my father here
moments from killing the deer
sees how everything he needs
has been provided
all of it working fine
before laws
before the amassing of wealth
before that nimble thing
called history
that prepared argument
even a god would shun
if one were asserted into place
the precarious perch
even my father
then only a decade or so
from being dead too
he has known this bush
since a boy and now
hunts it as an old man
the deer too has a journey
that took it to this
very creek
its head a truthful place too
even if my father has no sense
of what its thoughts might be
later after my father
pulls the trigger
and approaches the still warm body
it is all familiar to him
as he cuts into flesh
hands bloodied
he learned this chore
years ago
the meat inside
only a ghost of something older
the wind at his back
another of those negotiations
he knows
later he washes his hands in the creek
carries the carcass to his stone boat
drags it back to his truck
parked between spruces
lifts one end of the deer
onto the tailgate
then the other
pushes across that metal scrape

on the drive home
he could check on the dead deer
in his rear view mirror
but doesn’t
his thoughts race
past the point of words
when he signals
for his road
there are no oncoming cars
but waits a moment before turning
as though there were
can’t explain that
now or later
when I ask him about it
all he says
is that it was his last deer
that there wasn’t as much meat
on it as there used to be
that’s his argument with god
I know that even if he doesn’t say
it takes a very long time
to gain what a life holds
and then it is all lost again
the final exhale
erasing it all
then he is still my father
even if all that made him
is mostly shut off

that day though with the last deer
he sits on the tailgate for a few moments
after loading the deer
sniffs the air
catches hints of spruce needles mixed
with the sourness of fallen leaves
he doesn’t reflect on the deer’s life
or his own or what brought them both
here today
mostly his mind empties of thought
the moment not really requiring thought
only the necessities of being
breath, balance, movement, pause
attention or at least attending
eventually he gets in the truck
and drives away
his hands perched on the steering wheel
grip firmly and he aims his truck
down the highway
the dead deer in the back
not the only thing he
is transporting with him